Leafs' Burke touches off on Kulemin's contract negotiations

TSN.ca Staff
6/7/2010 12:56:25 AM
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Despite the fact that his hockey team has not taken the ice in nearly two months, Toronto Maple Leafs' general manager Brian Burke has remained in demand and in the spotlight this off-season.

On Sunday on Toronto radio station AM 640, Burke discussed the latest news, or lack thereof as the Leafs attempt to re-sign forward Nikolai Kulemin.

Burke stated that the talks have hit a standstill and that he believes that the player and his agent are overvaluing the services of the Russian winger who had 16 goals and 20 assists in 78 games last season.

"We haven't exchanged proposals in a couple of weeks now," Burke admitted to AM 640. 

"While they can say: ‘he was on your first line last year,' there is no one who would say Nikolai Kulemin is a first line left winger.  He's a first line left winger by default because we did not have a very good team.  I'm not paying for someone who gets the position by default."

Burke touched on a number of subjects during the interview, including the rumour that defenceman Dion Phaneuf would be named team captain at a press conference on June 17th.

"First off, that's a coaching decision, not a general manager's decision," Burke told AM 640.  "If that's the way that Ron Wilson decides to go, I would support that obviously.  I will not deny that is going to happen, but I'm certainly not going to confirm it either."

The NHL Entry draft was another topic of conversation.  While the Leafs do not have a pick until the third round, Burke did not dismiss the idea of acquiring a pick, if for nothing else than to keep everyone on their toes.

"If I get a first round pick it's going to be for one reason and one reason only; because I don't want our scouts sitting there on their butts with nothing to do for two days."

One of Burke's biggest priorities of the summer remains what to do with All-Star defenceman Tomas Kaberle.  The Czech blueliner has one more season remaining on his contract at a cap friendly $4.25 million.  Last week, the Maple Leafs sent out a memo to the other 29 NHL teams explaining Kaberle's ‘no-trade' clause.  There is plenty of speculation that Kaberle could be dealt at the draft, with several teams already inquiring about his services.  Burke continued to state that while they are not outright shopping the 32-year old, they are listening to offers.

"It's generated a great deal of interest," Burke told AM 640.  "What it has done is crystallize the process and it has sped it up.  The key is that every team that might have an interest, know exactly how the mechanics work."

While Leafs Nation continues to hope that a deal for prospects and draft picks is right around the corner, Burke was careful to downplay that possibility.

"There is significant interest, nothing that has crystallized yet and I don't anticipate doing anything, anytime soon."

Brian Burke (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)


(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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